–Nathan J. Brown, The Guardian
–Nathan J. Brown, The Guardian
No, do not Question Authority. Question Power. If you cannot tell the difference, ask an authority. He will know.
Mark Anderson, PURE: Modernity, Philosophy, and the One
The struggle between liberals and those who are popularly regarded as conservatives is a struggle between those who prefer their helping of equal freedom with more equality and those who prefer it with more freedom.
The good professor’s argument, which takes the form of a string of assertions, goes like this:
“White” is an artificial, socially constructed category that dates from the 19th century. It originally referred to propertied Anglo-Saxons. Not all whites were treated equally. Some peoples considered white now were not considered white then, such as Irish and Italian Catholics, and Jews. Therefore, ete, etc.
As arguments go, it isn’t very compelling. Even if we accept his premises, it doesn’t follow that white or European is completely arbitrary as an ethnic category; nor does it follow that a people who have not existed as a distinct group for long are without rights as such.
It’s easy to laugh at this sort of stuff and dismiss it out of hand, but it really is the way Western elites think, so, ridiculous or not, it determines the trajectory our societies take.
If white people can’t be said to exist in any meaningful sense, then it’s obvious that they can’t be disinherited and have their lands and resources taken from them. Anything can be done to a people who don’t exist; since they don’t exist, it can hardly be said to matter.
Professor Cole doesn’t see it quite like this, of course. Deconstructing “whiteness” and replacing white people are both aspects of a programme that aims at preventing ethnicity from having a material impact on peoples’ lives. That’s the long-run aim. In the short-run, that aim will be furthered by attacking the dominant ethnic group and it’s culture, diminishing its political power and gradually reducing its proportionate size in the population. That’s why Cole is happy to make such claims about ethnically European Americans, even though, if someone were to suggest the same thing about the Palestinians, he would be unlikely to give their argument much credence.
A recent article at Liberal Conspiracy asked, “What is the point of being British?”
So what is the point?
Nationality is a primary relationship that helps to define us as social beings. To say that, “I am British”, is to place oneself in a system of mutual interdependencies with other people for whom that statement is also true. The nation is a community that shares a common good. Citizens of the nation have duties, promoting the common good, and rights that derive from it.
That is the “point” of being British–to belong to a society, your own particular society, to depend upon it and to fulfill your obligations towards it. To ask, “what is the point of being British” is like asking, “what is the point of my family”, or, “what is the point of my friends”. Which is to say, it is to fundamentally miss the point.
Being British isn’t a piece of technology, like a can-opener, so it isn’t simply a means to an end. The purpose of society proceeds from our basic humanity. It should be obvious to all who are not Stirnerite post-human psychos—if not in a rational sense, then in a deeper sense—that we are social animals, that society fulfils us. Just because I cannot rationalise and articulate exactly why I would rather be with others than alone, doesn’t mean it is stupid to want to be others, or to promote, defend and celebrate that bond.
The Guardian recently published this glowing piece of puffery on Halden, Norway’s uber modern “high security” jail:
Halden prison smells of freshly brewed coffee. It hits you in the workshop areas, lingers in the games rooms and in the communal apartment-style areas where prisoners live together in groups of eight. This much coffee makes you hungry, so a couple of hours after lunch the guards on Unit A (a quiet, separated wing where sex offenders are held for their own protection) bring inmates a tall stack of steaming, heart-shaped waffles and pots of jam, which they set down on a checked tablecloth and eat together, whiling away the afternoon.
A touching image, where groups of sex offenders while away lazy afternoons under the beneficent gaze of their guards, eating heart-shaped waffles and drinking fresh coffee. Oh, how delightful! Being kind to murderers, rapists and paedophiles is the sort of thing that reduces Guardian writers to quivering piles of goo, so you can surely guess at its tone from the opening scene.
It seems that Norway’s basic insight is this: if you punish criminals, they will commit more crime; therefore, to have less crime, don’t punish criminals.
And lo, doesn’t Norway have extremely low rates of crime? Evidence based policy, comrades!
It does’t seem occur to the Guardian that the only reason Norway can run its prisons on this basis is that, 1, it already has low crime rates; and, 2, it’s incredibly wealthy.
Of course, here in the UK we have some experience with the results of liberalising the prisons. It’s a good system, if you’re a criminal, or you somehow benefit from astronomically high rates of crime. For the rest of us, the benefits are a little harder to parse. Presumably, the idea is that, at some point, if you’re nice enough to criminals, they will stop victimising you. So how nice is nice?
Here’s an idea: if punishing criminals causes them to commit crime, why not cease locking them up altogether? Convected criminals could have their benefits doubled, perhaps each time they rack up a new conviction, and be offered free places on college courses. I’m sure the crime rate would plummet overnight.
The transition of an oppressed nation to democracy, is like the effort by which nature arose from nothingness to existence. You must entirely refashion a people whom you wish to make free, destroy its prejudices, alter its habits, limit its necessities, root up its vices, purify its desires.
Decree of the Committee of Public Safety
There is an interesting thread currently up at Lawrence Auster’s blog, View from the Right, in which a left-wing commenter makes the following observation about how liberals and conservatives view ex-cons:
To liberals, when a member of society is charged or even convicted of a crime, he remains a member of society. He’s still very much “us.” And once he gets out of jail, he’s fully “us” again. The slate is wiped clean. “Paid his debt to society” is the classic liberal catchphrase in this regard. To conservatives, someone who breaks his society’s laws has renounced his membership in it, even declared war on it. He’s not “us” anymore, if he ever was. He’s “them.” And he always will be. “Menace to society” is the counterpart conservative catchphrase.
Auster rightly criticises the commenter for his straw man version of the conservative position, which implies that anyone convicted of a crime should be banished forever from society, but it’s interesting to see a liberal’s self-declared and conspicuously liberal position on criminal justice and think about what it means for the social order.
Note that the entire issue is reduced to one of discrimination. That’s why the counterfactual straw man is deployed: to act as a discriminatory reactionary view point against which the liberal principle of non-discrimination can distinguish itself.
Discrimination here operates on the dimension of personal history. Some prospective employees will have criminal records and some will not. Some will have full work histories and excellent references and some will not. Some will have relevant qualifications and some will not. Why should employers discriminate against people because of things that they’ve done in their past, things which can’t now be undone and which might not ever have been in their power to prevent or bring about?
The call for equality between ex-convicts and normal citizens is thus a part of a wider call for a society with no memory, in which its members have no pasts and are indistinguishable from one another on that basis. Such a society is more perfect in terms of the liberal principle of equality, because unequal past history is prevented from interfering with equality of outcomes.
But what we’ve done as individuals–from the sins we’ve committed to the summits we’ve attained–is part of who we are. If this part of us has to be suppressed in order to prevent distinctions being made, then we’re really denying a important aspect of human identity and detaching the individual from his place in the world.
“To live is to remember and to remember is to live.”
A world with no memory is a world in which who I am, and who you are, doesn’t mean anything. Whether we’ve done terrible thing or great things, or whether we’ve just done the ordinary things that we all do in the course of everyday life which constitute our relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and so on, they make us. Ignorance of the past can’t be a principle around which society is organised because it would result in something nightmarish and inhuman.
When discussing the recent success of Le Pen and the NF in France, English liberals like to talk about right-wing politicians playing on “basic fears”. A case in point:
However disastrously Sarkozy had mismanaged France’s affairs, however repellent his audience found Marine Le Pen’s Front National, the right had a sense of the popular…. It could respond to the crises in capitalism and the eurozone by appealing to basic fears about immigration, Islamist terrorism and crime. The left had less contact with raw emotion, fewer hot buttons to push.
If only people were less stupid, were more sophisticated, were more rational, they would be less susceptible to manipulation by right-wing politicians. So goes the not particularly subtle subtext.
While undeniably boorish, this reflects a certain truth; namely, the fact that the left is the party of the technocrats, of the clever sillies, and the right is the party of natural law and common sense.
Left to their own devices, the people will naturally gravitate towards the right, because the people have an innate understanding of the natural order of things and will orientate themselves towards it.
In order to prevent this from happening, the people must be made to forget their “basic fears” about things that actually matter, such as preserving their own existence, or be made to believe that these basic fears are evil, and encouraged to focus instead on things like climate change, anti-racism and so on.